Cocktails & Movies Review: “Flight” – A Smooth Flight

It’s kind of odd going to a film about a airline captain with a drinking problem after going drinking first… “Flight” is an intense film about an air disaster. But, it’s not just the crash that is gut-wrenching to watch. It is. The intensity that grips the audience is watching Denzel Washington battle with his demons. And there are a lot of them.

Cocktails & Movies: Flight

Does this man look sober enough to fly?

The movie opens with Captain William “Whip Whitaker waking up hours before his flight after a night of booze, sex and pot with one of the flight attendants he will be flying with. Not to worry for our main character, he simply does a line of coke and he’s good to go. After a turbulent takeoff that will shake even the most relaxed of fliers, all is smooth going until something goes wrong mechanically with the plane. What happens next is nothing short of a miracle. Through a series of maneuvers, which will be proved later that NO ONE else can do, he is able to crash land the plane with a minimal loss of life.

All’s good in the life of Whip. Only it isn’t. While still in the hospital, Whip steals away for a smoke where he meets Nicole, a heroin addict, played delicately by Kelly Reilly, who will become important to him as he begins the process of confronting the obstacles that are in his way. Whether these are put there by God to test him or whether he can acknowledge that he’s put them there himself, provides the fuel that drives this film.

To dodge the press that begin hounding him, he slips by out of the house with the help of his drug dealer, Harling Mays, played brilliantly by John Goodman. Harling is probably the closest thing to a friend that Whip has. Offered alcohol and drugs, Whip turns them down, and we can see that he appears to be turning over a new leaf.

Except that, like all alcoholics, he can only deny his demons for so long. When he learns that the NTSB has his blood results and they indicate alcohol and drugs in his system, he finds the nearest double Stoli and leaps in. He goes looking for Nicole and finds her as she is being thrown out of her apartment. He takes her to his country farm where they start a romantic relationship.

But, as the stress of the NTSB investigation begins to take its toll, Whip falls deeper and deeper into alcoholism, pushing everyone away who wants to help him, including Nicole, his union rep, Charlie Anderson, played by Bruce Greenwood, and the lawyer defending him, Hugh Lang, played coolly by Don Cheadle.

As his hearing before the NTSB approaches, he sobers up and then has the relapse of relapses, and only his dealer Harling can help. With some help from Harling, Hugh and Charlie get him before the NTSB where he testifies “what” happened during the flight. Better to not ruin the ending for you.

This is an easy Oscar contender, especially for Washington, who plays Whip with a fantastic mix of bravado and self-delusion and his continues to lie his way past the obstacles in his life. Credit also has to go to Robert Zemekis, who doesn’t make a lot of live-action movies anymore. But, he should.

Cocktails & Movies RATING: Golden Flask (look for this one come Oscar time)